The Electric Comedy

Rolando Peréz

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The Electric Comedy is a retelling of the ancient epic about the perennial war between the forces of greed, power, ignorance and (virtual) sex on one side and the deployments of generosity, empowerment, love and enlightened example, on the other, brought to life against the backdrop of the inescapable hyper-reality of our digital web. Grave questions emerge from the deep. Who is helping whom? Who is the spider and who is the fly? Is anyone winning in this scenario?

THE ELECTRIC COMEDY
Rolando Peréz

Illustrations by Micele Perillo

ISBN Paper: 1-887276-23-8
US: $ 12.95, Can: $ 16.95
Fall 2000


The Electric Comedy is a retelling of the ancient epic about the perennial war between the forces of greed, power, ignorance and (virtual) sex on one side and the deployments of generosity, empowerment, love and enlightened example, on the other, brought to life against the backdrop of the inescapable hyper-reality of our digital web. Grave questions emerge from the deep. Who is helping whom? Who is the spider and who is the fly? Is anyone winning in this scenario?

Just as Dante’s Divina Commedia dealt with the political and social conditions of Renaissance Italy, Rolando Peréz’s The Electric Comedy takes the reader through a journey of the soul, in the contemporary global landscape of simulated love, internet capitalism and the new metaphysics of virtual realities. With God dead and Minerva slain, Dante’s guiding light is transformed into the artificial light of electricity and a new conception of “vision” with no possibility of redemption. Everyone from Plato to Wired, from Lao-tzu to Bill Gates and beyond end up in the pages of this book. Perez’s guide is not Virgil but some old maps left behind by Nietzsche.


EXCERPTS

Canto 1 (36)           

In the beginning was the flesh,
and the flesh became word,
and the word became memory,
and our memory became electric.
Then in a puff of smoke,
gone was the age of the Ancestors,
gone was the age of History.
The exteriors all changed.
The desert, the arctic,
and everything in between disappeared
—or more accurately, reappeared as something other.
Something few of us had ever seen;
a brave new world,
born of a bloodless womb.
Some of us—the brave ones
—got on our vehicles and set out
to explore the new world:
hoping to find the promised signs of a new life.
But when we got there,
there was nothing.
A deception, a lie:
the interior had not changed at all.
Disappointed,
some of us returned
blinded by artificial stars, and worse,
some of us did not return at all:
trapped in a web,
impossible to escape.
And yet most of the inhabitants
here believe that this is the best
of all possible worlds:
safe, clean, secure, and ethical.
But where is the blood?
Where is the body?
And this thing of an “artificial mind,”
what could this possibly be?
Anyone who has studied philosophy
knows that a virtual substance
is a contradiction in terms.
“Yes, but as everyone here knows,
thanks to electricity
the ARTIFICIAL becomes the REAL,”
I am reminded by an eager young man,
full of potential,
lacking in qualities.
Thus our dreams, our nightmares,
our longings, and our desires
have become electric, subtle,
even transparent.
No more chains,
no more pulleys
…but electric pulses
transferred at excessive speeds
by our “new and improved”
desiring machines.

_____
CODA:

There would be no use in repeating all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; for this is the cure of forgetfulness and of folly. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, he who has the gift of invention is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his invention to the users of them…for this invention of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. You have found a specific not for memory but for reminiscence, and you give your disciples only the pretense of wisdom; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome, having the reputation for knowledge without the reality.

 — Plato
Socrates in Phaedrus

 Canto 2

The great divine Dante had Virgil
to guide him on his journey.
I, on the other hand, had no one,
except for few old maps
left behind
by my mentor,
my teacher and friend,
the courageous rope walker,
the courageous Captain N.
The old skipper
could not have imagined
for even a second,
how cold, how chilly,
the seas would become.
The ape is no longer
a painful embarrassment,
an object of shame to man.
For this other idea of someone greater,
is today’s joke
taught to school children
correctly seated
before their screens: watching
their rich and famous
business heroes,
Nitel and Bim,
Tiny and Soft,
pixelated Supermen.

_____
CODA:

            For matter to have so much power, it must contain a spirit.
The souls of the gods are attached to their images…

—Gustave Flaubert,
The Temptation of St. Antony

AUTHOR

Cuban born, Rolando Peréz, is the author of numerous books on a variety of subjects ranging from philosophy and literary criticism to poetry and drama. Some of his published titles include On An(Archy) and SchizoanalysisSevero Sarduy and the Religion of the Text, The Lining of Our Souls (based on selected paintings of Edward Hopper. Cool Grove) and The Electric Comedy (Cool Grove). He has also written over 15 plays that have received production in NYC.

 Mr. Peréz has a B.A. in philosophy from Trenton State College, an M.A. in philosophy, an M.A. in Spanish (both from Stony Brook), and a Masters in Library Science from Rutgers University. He is a librarian and the Spanish/French bibliographer at Hunter College.

Rolando Peréz